I've watched with interest all the Pope coverage this week. If you've been in a cave this past week, Pope John Paul II died last weekend, and the world has been converging on The Vatican City in Rome to pay their respects.
I was raise Lutheran, and yet for no particular reason I have always watched with great interest the Catholic Church. I remember the first time I asked my Dad why The Apostle's Creed says "one catholic and apostolic church" (all lower case), when we're clearly not Catholic.
Well, it turns out that "catholic" means "all", at least that's what my Dad told me.
I was married once to a cultural Catholic. With 6 brothers and sisters born in 7 years, my ex's family had the appearance of being a good Catholic family, but I don't think a single one of them actually attend any church at all.
When I was an exchange student in Brazil in the mid 1980s, I had the opportunity to go to a couple of Catholic weddings and I was amazed at how Brazilians, while technically Catholic (every town has a cathedral or smaller parish in the center of town), few of them take Catholicism seriously, at least until the Pope plans a trip to their country.
As CNN reports, there are an estimated 1 billion Catholics in the world. That's roughly 1/6th of the world's population. I can't help but wonder how many of those are simply "cultural Catholics".
Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that.
Ever since I went to a good Irish Catholic funeral, I decided that that was the kind of funeral I wanted. A nice big procession with the priest swinging that smoky thing. But since I'm neither Catholic nor Irish (nor do I know enough Irish people to fill a church) this might be a dream that won't go on to be a reality.
However, when I visited The Vatican on a European vacation with my husband less than two years ago, I was further intrigued by the Catholic Church. I saw St. Peter's Basilica, the Cistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museum, and can't help but have a deep respect for the Church.
That said, as a child of a Lutheran Minister, I wouldn't be here if my Dad hadn't been allowed to marry because of Church rules. As the niece of another Lutheran minister, I realize that as a woman I wouldn't be able to be a Lutheran minister like my aunt did. And as a married woman myself, I would have balked at someone telling me I couldn't use birth control to plan my family.
I wonder sometimes if the Catholic Church will ever "get with the times" on these and other issues. If there's one thing I don't like about the Church, it's that the pure and simple fact that I am missing male equipment makes me a 2nd class citizen, unable to participate fully in the Church's heirarchy.
It's for that reason and many others that I watch Catholics and the Church with great interest. I guess it's kind of like watching one of the primates in the zoo.
Now don't get all upset for me making such a comparison. I'm not calling Catholics monkeys or anything. I just think we're all different, and like all the animals of the earth, we may be tied together by evolutionary changes, but it doesn't make us all alike.
And that's ok by me.